Children’s Movement Founder David Lawrence Shares Insight from ‘A Dedicated Life’

One of the most important things physicians — and everyone else — can do is to celebrate other people, to make sure they know they are cared for, David Lawrence Jr., founder of the Children’s Movement of Florida and former publisher of the Miami Herald, told physicians, staff and students at an event at the Miller School of Medicine discussing his new memoir “A Dedicated Life: Journalism, Justice and a Chance for Every Child.”

Dr. Judy Schaechter interviews David Lawrence, Jr.
Dr. Judy Schaechter interviews David Lawrence, Jr.

“Make sure your patients know that you really, really care about them,” Lawrence said. “What a gift to other people that is. When you get to be a certain age you have a bunch of doctors, and I absolutely know who cares about me and who doesn’t.

“That needs to be a hallmark of this great institution: caring about other people and making sure they know they’re cared about.”

Lawrence, who retired from a long journalism career to become a leading national advocate for children in the critical early learning years, now chairs the Children’s Movement of Florida. As Henri R. Ford, M.D., MHA, dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, said in introducing Lawrence, “His accomplishments are nothing short of legendary. From his start at the St. Petersburg Times to his meteoric rise to include roles at the Washington Post, the Charlotte Observer, and the Detroit Free Press, to publisher of the Miami Herald, and his current role as chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida, David has committed his life to serving others.”

That service is driven in large part by the knowledge that 85 percent of brain growth occurs by the age of 3, and that the well-being of all children needs to be our highest priority. He described the path to winning approval for a predecessor to the Children’s Movement, the Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade, which created a dedicated funding source for improvements in health care, child care, and early education.

“It wasn’t by accident that it was called the Children’s Trust,” he said. “It was about trust, which is the central issue in our community and in the country. This year the trust will spend 150 million extra dollars for early intervention and prevention.”

Lawrence said Judy Schaechter, M.D., MBA, professor and chair of pediatrics, was “a major figure in all of this, leading an extraordinary health initiative,” the UM Pediatric Mobile Clinic, which put health teams in 170 Miami-Dade County schools. Dr. Schaechter, who interviewed Lawrence on the Mailman Center for Child Development stage at the Nov. 12 event, in turn paid tribute to her colleague Lisa Gwynn, D.O., who is director of the Pediatric Mobile Clinic.

These faculty members and their colleagues illustrate one of Lawrence’s favorite quotes, from Horace Mann, “in some ways the inventor of American public education.” In 1859 Mann told the graduating class at Antioch College, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

“It doesn’t need to be a celebrated battle,” Lawrence said. “It could be turning one child’s life around. But there’s a real joy in that.”

Tags: Children's Movement of Florida, David Lawrence Jr., Judy Schaechter